SUBHEAD: Commissioners consider noise walls along I-77

HUNTERSVILLE – Town commissioners voted 4-2 during the board’s Sept. 3 meeting to keep attorney George Harris as the town’s lobbyist.

Commissioners Melinda Bales and Danny Phillips opposed Harris’s reappointment, which costs the town $81,000.

Mayor Jill Swain and Commissioner Ron Julian said Harris’s work in Washington, D.C. has helped advance Huntersville’s stature among politicians and business leaders.

Phillips, however, wasn’t convinced the benefit outweighs the cost.

“It’s a waste of taxpayer money,” he said. “This is good money spent on bad (choices).”

Julian said Harris’s presence has helped the town attract business despite his tenure beginning during the economic downturn.

“I don’t see the point in switching now that we’re really just a year or so away from the real payoff,” he said. “Adding one more (business the size of) ABB (which moved to the town last year) would mitigate this for 100 years. George has done a good job for us.”

Commissioner Jeff Neely agreed.

“The last thing I want is for us to change positions after all these years,” he said. “For someone to see a town our size not have someone working for it in terms of economic development and be OK with it, would have to have their head in the sand.”

The Harris issue wasn’t the only highlight of the meeting. Commissioners also discussed two potential noise walls to be built along Interstate 77: One near Exit 23 along Stone Hollow and Bexley Commons at Rosedale, and the other near Exit 25 along The Landings.

Transportation Director Bill Coxe said town leaders have until Sept. 30 to decide how the walls would look, if developed. Designs can be one of 100 colors and would include textures such as dry dock stone or old brick.

The noise walls will be built as long as I-77’s HOT lanes are completed.

The board also discussed its sidewalk prioritization process. Priorities include sidewalks at Gilead Road from Wynfield Creek Parkway to Ranson Road and at Northcross Drive from Grand Oak Elementary to Bridgeford Lane.